Hes seen on
television presenting animal after animal to the hosts
of Good Morning America; he introduces wild creatures
to late night televisions wise guy, David Letterman;
he shares bits of wildlife trivia with talk show host
Larry King; he can be seen as the target of the wildlife
kingdoms lighter side on TVs Bloopers and
Practical Jokes and he can be seen sauntering around
Zoo grounds in his familiar khaki safari gear, greeting
guests and checking out the animal collection.
Jack Hanna, known to the
animal world and the general public as "Jungle
Jack," serves as an ambassador of the Columbus
Zoo and Aquarium and has been promoting the efforts
of this attraction for 20 years.
It all began after an
extensive search for a new Zoo director in 1978 The
Columbus Zoo Board of Trustees, together with Melvin
B. Dodge, then director of Columbus Parks and Recreation,
chose Jack Hanna, a 31-year-old native of Tennessee.
Hannas past experience included starting his own
pet shop and petting zoo, working for a wildlife adventure
company and serving as director of a small zoo in Florida.
When Hanna arrived in
Columbus with his wife Suzi and their three daughters,
attendance at the Columbus Zoo was close to 360,000
annually. Over the years he transformed the Zoo into
a model facility, increased attendance to more than
1.4 million in 1992, and earned worldwide recognition
for the Zoo through his regular appearances on nationally
televised programs including "Good Morning America,"
"The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Larry
In addition to his guest
appearances, Hanna also is the star of his own nationally
syndicated program "Jack Hannas Animal Adventures"
which reaches 96 percent of United States television
households and 62 foreign countries. Six publications
can also be added to his list of achievements including
his autobiography, "Monkeys On the Interstate"
and several childrens books.
Hanna acted as Executive
Director of the Columbus Zoo until 1992, when he was
promoted to Director Emeritus. Still serving in this
position, he continues to travel and promote the Zoo
locally, nationally and internationally.
Hanna said that his first
years were a trying time and had him wearing many hats.
in the early days, probably parking cars and trying
to cook hot dogs at the same time," he said when
asked to describe some of the challenges he faced. "But
a bigger challenge was to convince the people of central
Ohio that the Zoo was just as important as other public
facilities and programs."
Although there were formidable
tasks in those formative years when Hanna first arrived,
he looks back on those years with fondness. During that
time he made some of his favorite memories, which include
riding around the Zoo after closing with his family,
picking up trash and witnessing the improved gorilla
of the gorilla exhibit has to be one of my favorite
memories," he said. "It was an old building
that previously held elephants and then kangaroos. Seeing
the gorillas walk outside onto green grass for the first
time was very, very exciting!"
Headkeeper of the Shores
region Yvonne Clippinger and North America Region Manager
Bill Cupps both remember Hannas arrival and his
enthusiasm for his position.
"He was everywhere,"
Clippinger said. "Every morning hed drive
his car on Zoo grounds, hed make his rounds and
see everyone and check out the animals. He was here,
there and everywhere."
Cupps recalled an instance
in which Hanna was so eager to move forward on the gorilla
habitat that early one morning, he made a surprise visit
to the foot of Cupps bed and riled him out of
bed yelling, "You cant sleep, we have to
put the bars up in the gorilla habitat." Cupps
followed his boss to the Zoo but first told his wife,
who had never met Hanna, that this new director would
Despite his zealous nature
both Clippinger and Cupps credit Hanna for his confidence
in his keepers.
in the keeper and what the keeper was doing," Clippinger
said. "If you showed dedication or creativity and
the animals were well cared for and healthy, Jack let
the keeper do their own thing and be as creative as
they wanted to be."
Cupps agreed that Hannas
support contributed to better keeper performance which
resulted in an improved Zoo.
that Jack gave the keepers, letting us do our own thing,
gave us the feeling of being part of the Zoo which made
us more productive," Cupps said. "We were
able to actually do our jobs and that has helped make
the Zoo what it is today."
Making the public aware
of the Zoo and getting them to come out to visit as
well as putting animals in naturalistic habitats are
accomplishments that Clippinger also attributes to Hanna.
"When I first
started here, before Jack arrived, there were no visitors,"
she said. "Jack went out there and did the PR that
the Zoo needed. He also got the animals into habitats
and out of the menagerie-like atmosphere with cages."
These changes may all
relate to Jacks first impression of the Zoo.
"The Zoo entrance
back then was right near the tunnel. Nothing wrong with
that location, but it looked like the entrance to a
state prison with a chain-linked fence and unkept grounds!"
During his years at the
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Hanna has promoted a visitor-friendly
facility and eliminated cage-like exhibits. In fact
he believes that the Zoos structure and appearance
is the most noticeable difference since his arrival
20 years ago.
change to me is the physical layout and tremendous expansion
that has taken place," he said. "When I arrived,
the Pachyderm Building and Herbivore/Carnivore Complex
were the only two exhibits on the east side of the tunnel,
and the west side contained many old buildings and exhibits
that are nowhere to be found in todays beautiful
Zoo. The acquisition of the additional land south of
the Zoo, the North America exhibit, Discovery Reef,
and now the West African Exhibit and the new Pachyderm
areas have been excellent additions."
Hanna, now 54, became
excited about working in a zoo when he was 12 and working
for a veterinarian who often worked at the Knoxville
Zoo. He plans to stay active in the animal and zoo world
into the distant future.
He currently travels all
over the world filming 26 episodes of "Animal Adventures,"
does public appearances and speaking engagements at
zoos throughout the country and appears on "Good
Morning America," "Maury Povich," "Late
Night With David Letterman," and "Larry King
Live." He also spends time at the Columbus Zoo
the Zoos effort to pass the next tax levy in 2005,
Ill probably spend a little more time in Montana,"
he said. "Ill continue to promote the Columbus
Zoo, consult with other zoos, and do speaking engagements."
To date, his proudest
achievement has been "bringing together the citizens
of central Ohio, the city of Columbus and Franklin County
to support the Zoo."
|Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo
and Aquarium, Columbus, Ohio 1992-Present
|Executive Director, Columbus Zoo
and Aquarium, Columbus, Ohio 1978-1992
|Director, Central Florida Zoo,
Sanford, Florida, 1973-1975
|Jack Hanna's Animal
Adventures, nationally syndicated program which
reaches 96% of television households in the United
States and 62 foreign countries, 1993-present.
|Good Morning America,
regularly featured guest and wildlife correspondent,
|Late Night with David Letterman,
regularly featured guest, 1985-present.
|Larry King Live, regularly featured
|Maury Povich Show, regularly featured
|Other numerous appearances on:
The Nashville Network, The Discovery Channel, Cartoon
Network and Nickelodeon
|What Zoo Keepers Do, Scholastic,
|Jack Hanna's Ultimate guide to
Pets, Putnam Publishing, 1996
|Jack Hanna's Pocketful of Bugs,
|Jungle Jack Hanna's Safari Adventure,
|Let's go to the Petting Zoo with
Jungle Jack, Doubleday Books, 1991
|Monkeys on the Interstate, Doubleday
|Bachelor of Arts, Muskingum College,
New Concord, Ohio
|Honorary Doctor of Science, Otterbein
College, Westerville, Ohio
|Honorary Doctor of Science, Capital
University, Bexley, Ohio
|Honorary Doctor of Science, Scholastic,
Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio